Perhaps the most unique perspective on this week's 3M Open comes from the oldest player in the field and also the one with the biggest post-tournament decisions to make.
Steve Stricker shot 2-under 69 on Thursday in the opening round, playing a golf course that looks rather dissimilar to the one he torched for a 54-hole score of 18 under in 2017. That came in the 3M Championship, the now-defunct PGA Tour Champions event that called TPC Twin Cities home. Since that tournament left and the PGA Tour's 3M Open was shuffled in two years ago, the course has been lengthened, the landing areas narrowed and par lowered by a stroke.
"I like the other way better," Stricker chided after his round. "The length out here now, I mean, they took away a shot. It's a big course."
Stricker said Thursday he hit 4-irons into greens he was using 7- or 8-irons into in 2017.
"It's a challenge," he continued. "So all in all, 2 under is a good day, a good start."
You'll have to give Stricker a pass if he plays this week with one eye on his own game — Thursday that included hitting 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation — and the other on a few players he may be contacting with good news in the weeks to come.
Stricker, 54, will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team in two months at Whistling Straits, about 130 miles from his hometown of Edgerton, Wis. The 12-member team will consist of six automatic picks and six captain's picks.
At the moment, players at the 3M Open such as Patrick Reed and Tony Finau are planted firmly on the bubble and no doubt being scouted by Stricker.
"I'm always watching the guys play," Stricker said. "And it's always good to be around guys who might be on the team."
Dustin Johnson is all but a lock to make his fifth U.S. Ryder Cup team, and Stricker was able to spend some time with the world's second-ranked player this week in Blaine. From afar, Stricker last weekend watched in awe as Collin Morikawa, 24, won his second career major at the British Open.
"A lot of young guys who could potentially be on this team are putting up low scores," he said. "Collin has been playing great and it's so nice to see these young guys stepping up. They're energized to be part of a Ryder Cup team. It's so nice to bring young blood into that team competition because it rejuvenates everyone."
A new looper for DJ
Johnson is playing the 3M Open this week without his brother and caddie, Austin, who tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning from the British Open. Austin left the 3M Open on Monday and drove home to Florida.
"He's doing fine," Johnson said of his brother during a brief stop with reporters following his round of 1-under 70.
TaylorMade Vice President of Tour Operations Keith Sbarbaro is working with Johnson this week, and Johnson said the new caddie was not much of a disruption. The pair has worked together in the past.
"Maybe hit the wrong club on a couple holes but other than that, that was my fault, though, I guess," he said.
Johnson said he's been tested daily this week, and that his brother has already been cleared to caddie next week at the WGC St. Jude Invitational in Memphis.
Former Timberwolves big man Cole Aldrich and his wife, Britt, followed 2019 U.S. Open champion and University of Kansas pal Gary Woodland on Thursday, just for good luck.Or maybe not?
"We show up and he makes double [bogey]," Aldrich said of his friend who shot a morning round of 69.